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Thursday, March 28, 2013

It has been a slow calving week; I guess the cows decided to give us a few days off.  I have taken advantage of the time off by reading, taking some long afternoon naps and trying to go to bed as early as possible. The calving is slowly picking up and just in time because the weather has turned warm again! It is now reaching a balmy 12 degrees on a fairly regular basis! As a result, my snow pants can pretty much stand up on there own.
This past week there has been a run of twins. There have been about 5 pairs so far, I do believe. One set of twins was incredibly tiny. We weighed the smaller twin and it came to a whopping 18 pounds!  That’s like a medium sized turkey . . . but she is doing great, sucking well, determined to grow. She is oh sooooo cute; I could die! There was another calf born and that weighed 126 pounds. She is a very large girl that’s for sure. I find the difference in weights simply astounding.
Last night I went outside at my regular time of 1:00 to check cows. A full or almost full moon was casting bright light over the snow; I hardly needed the flashlight. I heard a lone wolf cry to his pack across the flat. And they, in turn, answered with an echoing chorus that seemed to put the cows on edge just a bit. What an amazing sound for nature.
The lady who gave me my kitty cat has another litter of kittens . . . this is so bad. I went to see them and now I’m thinking I need another one. It is so hard to overcome their cuteness!
Other than the regular, everyday chores, the occasional calf pulling and cow sorting, nothing much has been happening. Just the habitual ups and downs of the season.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The hustle and bustle has been slowly but surely picking up around this outfit. The calf count is now past 225. What fun to watch these little creatures race around with one another, tails stuck straight in the air, bucking and jumping as if they were practicing for the rodeo. These warm sunny days we have been having lately fills everything with energy and a feeling of the impending spring!
            On one particularly busy day, we had to pull three calves all in a row.  One was backwards, another was just too big and the last was upside down. I got to see it all in one afternoon. After all that “experience” I guess they thought I was the right girl for the job when yet another calf needed to be pulled that night. I felt inside, hooked the chains up to the feet and guided the calf out. It is so satisfying knowing you helped a little calf into the world!
            I plucked up the courage to try milk straight from a cow and I was pleasantly surprised. It didn’t taste terrible, amazing! In fact I thought it had less of a taste to it. I am now regularly having it on my cereal, yummy!
            And finally, the heifer that I have been so excited about and waiting oh so patiently for, has calved. She was the sweetest, quietest and cutest looking heifer of the whole bunch, or so I thought.  Her calf was large so it had to be pulled. It was a fairly hard pull too, but it lived and is good and healthy. However, when we let the heifer out of the maternity chute, she went absolutely NUTS. Attacking and screaming at anything and everything in site that even smelled human. My jacket that had been hanging on the gate got a good beating! Roger says he has never seen a cow do that in all his years of working with them. We gave her a few days to accept her baby, but she never did. So the calf was grafted onto another cow and has a new loving mother now.  My favorite little heifer has been designated for trail ride meat . . . they said they would save me a steak! Ohhh, I’m so sad, I thought she would make such a great cow. :’(
Unfortunately, there have also been a few more fatalities. One morning I walked out into the heifer pen and found a dead and extremely bloated cow in the mud. It seemed she had gotten onto her back, couldn’t roll over, filled up with gas and died. Apparently this is not uncommon and they can die within minutes from being in the wrong position. And sure enough, a few days later I was walking about doing checks and found a cow on her back.  She had just popped a calf out and was rolling around, legs flailing, trying to right herself. I hollered for help, ran to grab a rope and we managed to get her up without difficulty. It’s a good thing I walked by at just that moment though, or we might have had an orphan to deal with.
Another unfortunate event was when we had to pull a heifer’s calf and it got stuck halfway out for some reason.  They pulled and twisted the calf but he refused to come out.  Consequently, he suffocated because he was not able to fully inflate or drain his lungs. When we finally got him out it was too late.
With the dead pile accepting a few new members the scavengers have been around. There was a bald eagle and a HUGE golden eagle getting into a brawl over the food, boy was that was something to see!  The other morning I was lying in bed and was startled by a bang that shook the whole house. Shortly followed by two more equally loud bangs. There was a wolf by the dead pile and as I had guessed, they were shooting out the window at it. I don’t believe they got it though. Wolves are a real threat to the cattle and they can and do kill them if they get hungry enough.
There have been many happy births too. We had one heifer calf born, weighing in at 125 pounds . . . glad I wasn’t her mother.  Another calf was born premature but he survived and is doing very well. He is a tiny, short haired, toothless thing, that couldn’t even walk a few days ago and still has some difficulty eating. My goodness is he adorable though!
And today the oddest calf was born. For most of the day we had thought this calf had been stepped on by the mother; that would explain her large swollen belly. I noticed that her rear end didn't look right, a bit puffy and bulging. When we lifted up the tail, there were no holes. This poor little heifer couldn't poop or pee. There was really nothing we could do (even I, the optimist in these kind of situations, couldn't find a bright side) for the poor little thing but put it down. We opened her up and took a look at her insides. Her bladder was HUGE! Close to rupturing I'd say. And there was a strange watery sack attached to her liver that had everybody stumped; so she obviously had other issues too. It seemed as though her urinary and digestive tracts ran together somehow, and what would have come out was a mixture of both. Interesting, yet very sad to say the least.
About that lamb I wanted so badly, I think it will have to go on my 'future pets list'. I just don't know where I will keep him when I am moving around so much. But I WILL get one someday :)

A cow named Zipper

Probably the most exciting thing that has happened since I last wrote was the incident of the “Zipper” cow.  One Saturday night I stayed up watching Snow White and the Huntsman (a terrible movie, I would not recommend it) and got to bed at about 10:00pm. Two hours later I got up and did my night check. Fairly uneventful, I just put a heifer that was starting to calve in the barn. The protocol for calving heifers is to stay up until they have calved to be sure there aren’t complications. I waited for her to do something for about an hour or so and when she wasn’t even showing feet I knew something was wrong.  I got some help, saying that we needed to pull a calf . . . if only it had been that simple.  But what we found inside was very strange. Was it backwards? Was it in a curled position? Bunched up? Twins maybe? For three hours they tried to figure out what position the calf was in.  The calf was not going to come out; everybody was out of ideas and ready to put the poor cow down.  In a desperate attempt to save the cow, they decided to do an emergency Caesarean section.  Quickly, back into the house to grab needles, freezing, razors, scalpels, pliers, liquid myosin, oxytocin, warm water, iodine and a tail block (to stop her contractions).  The incision was made, kept as clean as possible, and the calf lifted out. It was dead by then. Just as they were beginning to sew her uterus up, she lay down. This is a very bad when you are trying to be hygienic.  I was holding her tail, which had been wrapped around the side of the chute to keep her still. Therefore, I basically had to hold up this cow by her tail. I am here to tell you that this is not the easiest thing to do, even when leaning my whole body weight on it I could barley make it stay.  However, soon I had help and we managed to chain her tail to keep her up.  By the time everything was said and done it was 7:00 in the morning and I was starting to fall asleep on my feet. The cow was put in a pen, shot up with drugs and was not given a high life expectancy. After that eventful night/morning, I went on to work for the rest of the day, finally crashing in the late afternoon.  But, I am pleased to announce that the heifer is doing very well; the surgery was almost two weeks ago and she is on her third dose of long lasting liquid myosin.  I always knew she would make it!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Well, as the weather man predicted we got a huge dump of snow! At one point we were getting about an inch in a half hour. Over a period of two days we likely got a good foot and a half of snow, bringing our total snow measurement to three feet. It is easily up to my waist in some areas. If you walk in places like that it is extremely hard and if you fall down (which is very easy to do) its quite hard to get back up without being buried in the snow.
My days are starting to fall into a routine. I am mainly just moving cows around, from the pens to the barn and back out again; Checking for calving cows; unfreezing the watering system every morning; and making sure food, salt and minerals are kept stalked up.  The new calving barn is now fully operational as of this week as well. Just in time too, the other barn is not keeping up with the amount of babies being born. We are having to set up a lot of make shift pens.
A new development! I stuck my hand up a cow without a glove on for the first time. And I must say that you can feel things a lot better. This calf was backwards and needed to be pulled. It was a successful pull and we all went inside for breakfast, being sure to wash hands.
I was able to see how to treat cows with swollen/sore bags. They put a clamp in the cows nose and crank her head up, then they pour carbolic acid down her throat. Apparently this brings down the swelling, I'm not sure why, but would love to find out.
My night check has been recently changed from 3:30am to 12:00am, which I am glad about. It means I get a more solid sleep from about 1:00 to 6:30, yay! The other night, just as I stepped out the door I saw a shooting star, that made my night!  I am always very wary of moose while on my night checks. There is always at least one. However, one night there were about 5, at various locations around the yard. Wolf tracks were found today about 100 yards from the back door too.  It can be a little nerve racking at times. . .
A random note: I have just discovered how awesome Johnny Cash is. And am loving the song Folsom Prison Blues :)
Sam and I have been put in charge of milking Candy (she is part milk cow) out once a day.  Yesterday I milked half a gallon out all by myself, cleaned it and put it in the fridge.  One thing is for sure, if I keep this up I will have very strong hands. You would be surprised at how fast your hands get tired. I haven't tried the milk yet. To be completely honest with you I am a little nervous . . . it is awfully yellow looking. But at $8 a gallon with 9 of us living there, I can see why they would want to milk her instead of buying it.
And the most exciting thing that happened to me this week I have saved for last!
Punky and I went to the neighbouring ranch to pick up an orphaned calf which they have now grafted onto a cow of theirs that lost its baby.  We picked up the calf and everything and then the lady showed us her lambs and . . . Oh my goodness, I have never seen anything so cute in my life! They had a tiny black orphaned lamb too and I got to hold it. He would just run around your feet and follow you looking for food, poor little guy. Now I am determined to get one! Wanda says that I can as long as I milk the cow to feed it and it leaves when I do or I find a home for it. I have pretty much got everyone else convinced and if they aren't convinced at least they are thinking about it. I wonder how my grandparents would feel about having a sheep in their backyard . . .
Ahhh, I am so excited!
If only my name was Mary . . . :]

Friday, March 1, 2013

Our most recent calf count is pushing 35 babies, alive and well.  We have had to pull quite a few (I've lost track now), but they have all lived, much to everyones relief.  One highlight of my week was sticking my arm in a cow and feeling the calf inside.  I could only manage to find its feet though.  A few days later I was "assigned" to clean out two cows who hadn't passed their afterbirth yet.  It had been rotting for quite a few days, so was rather rank.  I found the vick's vapo-rub and shinned up my nose with it; it helped considerably.  Eli showed me how to pull the afterbirth without breaking it on the first cow and then I did the second cow on my own.  They seem to be doing great now!
There are so many moose out here!  This afternoon I was about 20 steps away from a cow moose who had jumped into the round pen to eat the hay that was on the ground.  It was so crazy! Never thought I would be that close to one.
We are now doing night checks every two hours.  I have somehow ended up with the 3:30am check.  Most nights there is nothing happening out there on my check.  However, occasionally something happens and I have to move a calving cow into the barn or if the cow has already calved, move the baby and mother into the barn (which can be tricky).  If a first time calver is starting to calve someone has to stay up to make sure there are no complications.  So some nights I am up for an hour and a half or more. It gets pretty tiring and sometimes I sneak away and take a nap. I have had two nights in a row off though, so I can't complain!
It has snowed a lot over the past fews days and it is supposed to dump tomorrow.  Because more snow is just what we need! Glad to have my trusty old muck boots.
Tomorrow we will be sorting cows.  Taking out the ones who look ready to calve and putting them closer to the house.
I need to head back up to Six Mile and go to bed, seeing as I will be up during the night.
Goodnight to all!